Mexico Travel Guide
Full country name: Estados Unidos Méxicanos
Area:: 11,964,375 sq km
Population: 111,21 million (July 2010 est.)
Capital City: Mexico City
Languages: Spanish, various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional indigenous languages.
Religion: Roman Catholic 76.5%, Protestant 6.3% (Pentecostal 1.4%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.1%, other 3.8%), other 0.3%, unspecified 13.8%, none 3.1%
Time Zone: GMT/UTC -7 (The North West state of Sonora is on -7 GMT all year round), GMT/UTC -7 (Baja California Sur and several other states in the northwest are on Mountain Time), GMT/UTC -8 (Baja California Norte is on Pacific Standard Time), GMT/UTC -6 (Most of Mexico is on Central Standard Time in Winter)
Dialling Code: 52
Electricity: 127V, 60Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Money & Costs:
Currency: Mexican New Peso
Average yearly salary: 13,200
The most expensive regions are Baja California, Monterrey and the Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean coast, but elsewhere you can expect to get away with spending around $20-35 a day, particularly in rural areas. Throw in a few luxuries like travelling in reasonable comfort, staying at better mid-range places and eating at more expensive restaurants, and you’ll need more like $60.00.
It’s best to bring US-dollar denomination traveller’s checks and some US dollars in cash. You can exchange money in banks or in casas de cambio. Note that bank exchange facilities are often only open between 9am and 3pm or 4pm. Major credit cards are accepted by airlines, car rental companies and more expensive hotels and restaurants – but take extra care when using them, as credit-card fraud and theft is rife in Mexico. In heavily touristed areas such as Acapulco, Cancun and Cozumel, you can often spend US dollars as easily as pesos at hotels and restaurants (although the exchange rate will probably be very bad).
Note: the dollar sign is used to refer to pesos in Mexico; prices in US dollars are usually marked US$ or USD.
Mexico has a 15% value-added tax (IVA) which by law must be included in quoted prices. Sometimes, usually in top-end hotels, prices are quoted without this tax. Tipping in restaurants in resort areas is equivalent to US levels, somewhere between 15% and 20%. Outside these areas, a tip of 10% is sufficient at mid-range restaurants. Generally, staff at smaller, cheaper places do not expect a tip. Expect to bargain at markets and with drivers of taxis without meters. Treat haggling as a form of social interaction rather than a matter of life and death.
ATMs are very common in Mexico, and are the easiest source of cash. You can use major credit cards and some bank cards, such as those on the Cirrus and Plus systems, to withdraw pesos from ATMs. The exchange rate that banks use for ATM withdrawals is normally more in your favour than the ‘tourist rate’ for currency exchange, though that advantage may be negated by extra handling fees and interest charges. Should you need money sent to you by wire transfer in Mexico, an easy and quick method is the Dinero en Minutos (Money in Minutes) service of Western Union. It’s offered by thousands of bank branches and other businesses around Mexico.
Workers in the tourism and hospitality industries often depend on tips to supplement lousy wages. In tourist hotspots, tipping is up to US levels of 15%; elsewhere 10% is standard. If you stay a few days in one place, you should leave up to 10% of your room costs for housekeeping staff. A room porter in a mid-range hotel will be happy with $1 a bag. Taxi drivers don’t generally expect tips unless they go out of their way for you.
Geography: Mexico is bordered by the United States to the north, and Belize and Guatemala to the southeast. Mexico is about one-fifth the size of the United States. Baja California in the west is an 800-mile (1,287-km) peninsula and forms the Gulf of California. In the east are the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Campeche, which is formed by Mexico’s other peninsula, the Yucatan. The center of Mexico is a great, high plateau, open to the north, with mountain chains on the east and west and with ocean-front lowlands lying outside of them.
Mexico is a land of such extreme diversity: the superficial glitz of fly-in, fly-out tourist resorts coexists with awe-inspiring ancient cities, and snow-capped volcanoes slope down to pine forests, deserts and balmy tropical beaches. The bursting industrial megalopolis of Mexico City is a one-hour flight from the resource-rich southern state of Chiapas, where Indian insurgents recurrently tangle with the ruling party’s paramilitary forces. Up along the northern border, Mexico’s disorienting tumult of heritages merge with the air-conditioned cultures of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Climate: Climate varies according to altitude. Coastal areas and lowlands (tierra caliente) are hot and steamy with high humidity, while the central plateau is temperate even in winter. The climate of the inland highlands is mostly mild, but sharp changes in temperature occur between day and night. Rainfall varies greatly from region to region. Only the Sierra Madre Oriental, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the state of Chiapas in the far south receive any appreciable amount of rain during the year, with the wet season running between June and September. All other areas have rainless seasons, while the northern and central areas of the central plateau are dry and arid. There is some snow in the north in winter. The dry season runs from October to May.
Health: Health insurance is strongly recommended. The quality of medical facilities, both private and public, are of a good quality. There are no special immunizations or vaccinations required when traveling to Mexico, however, you should consult your doctor before the trip.
Food & Drink: Mexican cuisine is well known for its varied flavors, colorful food decorations, and variety of spices and ingredients used. The cuisine is centered around three national staples: beans, tortillas, and chili peppers. The methods of food preparation differs: tortillas are cooked on griddles, whereas beans (frijoles) can be eaten boiled, fried, on tortillas, in soups, or with anything else. The flavors strongly depend on the influence of the native American traditions and the Spanish heritage, therefore the food and tastes differ from region to region. The northern part of Mexico is known for its beef production and meat dishes, whereas the Southern part of the country is known for its chicken-based and spicy vegetable dishes. Seafood is excellent and widely available. Cerveza is the national beer of Mexico and has an excellent taste. The best known examples of lager-style are Sol and Corona.
Jan 1 2005 New Year’s Day
Feb 5 Constitution Day
Mar 21 Birthday of Benito Juárez
Mar 25-28 Easter
May 1 Labour Day
May 5 Anniversary of Battle of Puebla
Sep 16 Independence Day
Oct 12 Día de la Raza (Columbus Day)
Nov 2 Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Nov 20 Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution of 1910
Dec 12 Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Note: (a) In addition there are many local holidays. For details, contact the Mexican Tourist Office. (b) Holidays falling at the weekend are not celebrated on the previous or following weekday.
Disclaimer: The above information is for reference purposes only. The content of this page is not intended to substitute for advice given by the user’s own government travel departments or a licensed travel health advisor. The viewer/user of this web page should always contact the user’s own government representatives in that area for the most up-to-date information at that time, before making a final decision to travel to that country or destination.
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